17 September 2008

Google actually IS changing the way I think

Periodically, there are arguments about how Google is making us all stupid by "thinking" for us - much the same way that no one knows how to spell anymore thanks to Microsoft Word and the advent of cellphones means no one actually remembers anyone's phone number. It's debatable as to whether this is actually dumbing us down. I suspect it's more like allowing students to use calculators so they can spend more time actually learning algebra and calculus and less time doing tedious multiplications and divisions.

But that's not what I want to talk about. I recently noticed a very fundamental way that Google changed my thinking. When I first downloaded Google Desktop Search some time back, there was some little happy markety type phrase about "Search, don't sort" and referring to some utopian future where I would never have to create a folder hierarchy on my computer again. I'd just dump it all in one place and use tagging and searching to immediately access what I was looking for. I laughed. I had a great system already, and I just kept on extending it, using GDS as more of a dynamic shortcut than a real search tool.

Then I got a new job and a brand new, absolutely blank computer. In the interim, I had also taken to Google Reader and Google Docs, both of which reinforced aspects of that non-hierarchical vision. It's been months and I still have less than a dozen folders (outside the default Pictures, Music, My Scans) and typically do use search as the primary method of finding and accessing documents. So, thanks Google!